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People: The Great Forgotten Challenge Of Entrepreneurs

Too often I hear businessmen say that personnel are the most important thing in their companies. I imagine it must be because salaries are the most significant part of their expenses. In most cases, the allocation for training that is included in the company’s budget each year is usually low or nonexistent. Investments are made in the maintenance of buildings, installations, machinery and software. Research is done on new products, new markets, competition and the introduction of technology, but little or no effort is made to improve the company’s most valuable and important asset. Small and medium companies seldom dedicate time to improving training and therefore to improving the productivity of the equipment.

There is a lot of talk about the human factor as a key element, but very little time and resources are devoted to taking real care of people. Therefore, all these messages are empty of content. And here there is a great opportunity for improvement for those entrepreneurs who want to have successful organizations.

The human resources (HR) department, when it exists, tends to work mainly on administrative aspects related to people (sick leave, vacations, contracts, etc.) but often does not fulfill its main mission, which is to know how to help people feel happier in the company. Employee happiness is one of the easiest ways to achieve greater employee contributions to the organization and therefore to the improvement of the company’s productivity.

Using an analogy from aviation, we think that in an airplane, for everything to go well in a flight, the main actors are the pilot, the co-pilot and the rest of the crew. We forget the fundamental role of the mechanics, who are key to ensuring that continuous maintenance allows the aircraft to function correctly. Something like this would be the HR department, whose fundamental function is to perform the continuous review and maintenance of its key parts, which are the people.

I have just completed a conference tour of almost three months, with businesspeople from seven Latin American countries, and I have observed a common concern among all of them. They have great difficulty in retaining talent, with high turnover rate in their workforces, which generates high stress and serious problems in the execution of company operations. They do not know how to deal with this situation. This forces them to work even harder to meet the demands of new workers who need new ways of working.

I believe this will be the great challenge for companies in the next decade. Managers and entrepreneurs must be trained to know how to manage people, in this case with well-defined actions, so that they can occupy the place of true protagonists that they have in the company.

A company with an innovative product that does not have a highly committed team behind it will be a failure, but a mediocre product with a winning team will have a good chance of survival.

In my experience working with companies, I have seen that the best ones, without a doubt, are those that have a great leader who knows how to manage people well and get the best out of each one of them. It is not necessary to have high-profile teams, but rather groups of people who work as a team with high motivation and happiness.

This aspect, which seems so simple and obvious, is the one that unfortunately I perceive to be greatly neglected. And this usual deficit, together with a radical change in the needs of the new workforce of young people joining companies, makes it necessary to review this aspect in depth in order to reduce the already-high risk that exists in companies for their survival.

I recommend, therefore, several actions from leaders and their HR departments, which should have an increasingly greater role in their companies:

• Offering continuous training programs

• Analyzing the real needs of the group via continuous satisfaction and work environment surveys

• Developing policies that facilitate the reconciliation of family and work to improve employee happiness and quality of life

• Crafting career plans that allow for the visualization of the development of each person in the company (this helps avoid high turnover)

• Working individually with each employee to know what their skills and abilities are in order to place them in the position where they feel happiest and at the same time contribute more value to the company

• Clearly defining the objectives, goals and functions of each person’s job position, which is something that does not usually occur, generating dissatisfaction and potentially leading to employee departure.

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José Luis González, Forbes Coaches Council Member